Ankle injury rehab – walking with intent

Running is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby, yet running causes many people discomfort or problems.  Few runners won’t have had some sort of ankle injury.  From ankle sprains to achilles tendinopathies there are quite a number of tissues you can injure around the ankle. Therefore we aim to make our rehab programs in such a way that you aren’t simply out of pain but truly fit to run again. It is the goal of rehab to ensure that you can engage in thoughtless, fearless movement.  To make sure that everything you do enjoyable and pain-free.

One aspect that we focus one from the first appointment is to get you walking with intent again.

The majority of runners who come in and see us tend to have pain in the ankle or even the knee and hip and most of them do not do this well.

Due to this pain, the subconscious mind perceives this as a potential threat. The simple trick we use at PST is to walk with ‘intent’. What I mean by walking we intent is to push off the big toe. This will help the joints and tissues move correctly again.

The technique is simple but can feel tricky to perform but more on that later.

Rolling from heel to toe

Almost everyone has sprained their ankle or another type of ankle injury before, especially runners. When we suffer an injury our body protects itself, often by avoiding putting pressure through a certain part of the body. Initially, this is a good thing, but often the protective movement carries on after the healing is done which loads the joints and muscles in ways the body is not used to.

What often happens as a result of this is that you lose dorsiflexion.

Dorsiflexion is where you pull your foot up off the floor. We rarely perform that movement but what does happen when we walk and run is that the tibia must move over the foot. This is the very same movement with the foot being stationary.

Why is dorsiflexion important?

When we lose the ability to dorsiflex we can’t truly engage the whole of the posterior chain. To be able to do this we need to be able to move our weight from our heel to our midfoot.

It is the movement that allows us to roll smoothly through our gait cycle whether it is walking or running. A significant loss in your dorsiflexion range WILL have an impact on other areas.

Try this out –

Stand up and take a short step forward. Now on the front leg rock back until your shin is vertical. Now try and apply pressure through your whole foot. It’s quite hard but as soon as you allow your knee to travel over the foot it becomes much easier. You also likely felt just how much the whole leg becomes involved.

If your tibia can’t travel over the foot it is a real struggle to properly engage the posterior chain well. As a result of this you tend to get a lot more stress than normal placed on the knee and the achilles. Over time this can lead to the likes of patellar and achilles tendinopathies.

Improving Dorsiflexion


In the video below I outline a couple of options for improving dorsiflexion directly. Outside of these looking at increasing the strength of the calf muscles is a very good idea. Improving the strength of the muscles increases their capacity to tolerate the demands of running. Plus, if you put a bit of emphasis or attention on the lowering phase you will get a much more effective stretch thn during basic static stretching. This is becasue the muscles are lengthening under load and as such getting stronger as they do so.



So there you have it, our easy and simple trick to help you with that pain whilst running! Give it a go and let us know if this helped you. By using this simple trick 9/10 of our runner’s symptoms decrease.


If you would like to have a chat about how to deal with any ankle injuries or adjust your training in relation to it,  you can arrange a free phone call. or click here if you’d like to enquire about an appointment.


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